Key Points

  • Open-source ad servers allow for near-infinite customization.
  • But they come with a lot bigger technical requirements for both web and mobile app publishers.
  • These self-hosted servers aren't right for everyone, but in some cases, they're the only type of ad server that fits the bill.

When you're using the internet, "open-source" is usually a code word for "free" and "customizable." That's certainly the case for open-source ad servers, which makes them an immediately attractive option to publishers who are looking to build or improve their ad tech stack.

Of course, you need to learn all the facts before you go all-in on an open-source ad server. While they can be the perfect solution for some publishers, ad serving with these servers is not right for everyone. We've got you covered. Read on to learn everything you need to know.

Open-source ad servers are great, but you know what's better? Fully managed ad server implementation and optimization that boosts your ad revenue and ad performance. Learn more about Playwire's holistic online advertising solutions for publishers. Contact us.

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The Complete Guide to Ad Servers

The Complete Guide to Ad Servers

Open-Source Ad Server: Defined

Let's start with the basic definition of an open-source ad server:



What is an open-source ad server?

An open-source ad server is an ad-serving platform that publishers host on their own servers. The source code for the server is available from a central download location and is almost always free to use. Publishers download the source code, upload it to their own servers, configure it and set it loose on their online advertising strategy.

Self-Hosted Ad Servers vs. Hosted Servers

Open source ad servers, also called self-hosted ad servers, have their advantages and disadvantages when compared to hosted servers (any other ad server hosted on third-party ad servers).

Here are some feature pros and cons to keep in mind:

Advantages of Open-Source Ad Servers

  • The source code is yours to modify, so you can configure your server to function however you need it to. Hosted ad servers typically do not allow that level of customization.
  • The source code is free, which can cut down on total ad server costs.
  • Your data is contained within your private server and not shared with any third party.

Disadvantages of Open-Source Ad Servers

  • When something breaks and ad creatives or ad units are not being served to your available ad inventory, there is no support number to call. It's up to you and your team to fix the problem.
  • As online privacy laws change, you will need to make sure your ad server is up to date and compliant. A hosted ad server platform will automatically update to reflect the latest in privacy laws.
  • Server uptime depends on the capabilities of your internal team and is not contractually guaranteed like it typically is for hosted ad servers.
  • The initial cost to purchase your own servers may outweigh the long-term savings of the free server source code.

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Ad Server Resource Center

The Complete Ad Server Resource Center

Cost of an Open-Source Ad Server

While this isn't universally true, it is generally the case that open-source ad servers are free to download. The source code is available and ready for use. 

But nothing in ad tech is ever really free, right? The cost of your shiny new open-source ad server is going to come in the form of the cost of managing your own server on which you host the source code you just downloaded.

Physical server costs can vary pretty widely, but if you're about to go out and buy a brand new server just to host an open-source ad server, your costs are probably going to be a lot higher than they would have been if you had just chosen a hosted server solution.

However, if you already have your own server and you have room to upload and configure an open-source ad server, then open-source may feel free even though you had to purchase the server at some point.

Keep in mind, too, that there is an element of ongoing cost for open-source ad servers that comes in the form of management. You're probably going to have to pay someone to manage the server and troubleshoot when bugs pop up, so figure that into your books before you make your decision.

Managed Ad Server and Everything Else: Playwire

Ultimately, the choice between an open-source ad server or a hosted ad server is one that only you can make. But in either case, you can still end up with some pretty big headaches when it comes to setting up, configuring, managing, and optimizing your ad server.

That's when the managed ad server solution starts to look a lot more attractive to busy publishers like you. And that's one part of Playwire's comprehensive revenue amplification services. We'll manage every aspect of your ad tech stack - ad server included - to send your ad revenue through the roof. 

Ready to get started? Contact our team today.

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